The Low Down on Buckling Up: The Georgia Seat Belt Law
O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1 (the Georgia seat belt law) requires every person, regardless of age, driving or riding in a front seat of a passenger vehicle to wear a seat belt.
Passenger vehicles include cars, vans, and sport utility vehicles. Georgia law now includes pickup trucks in that definition. Previous law exempted pickup trucks from the seat belt requirement because of the possible burden on farmers. The law now exempts only those individuals, 18 or older, who are using the truck for normal farming uses.
Who else is exempt?
Exemptions [O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(C)] to the general seat belt requirement include:
- Delivery vehicles that do not exceed 15 miles an hour between stops
- People with a written doctor’s note stating that they are unable to wear a seat belt for medical reasons
- Vehicles made before 1965
- Vehicles exempt under federal law
- Rural letter carriers for the US Postal Service
- Newspaper deliverers
- Emergency vehicles
Interestingly, the law also exempts individuals who are operating their vehicle in reverse.
All drivers are responsible for ensuring that they have properly secured any minors in the vehicle.
The law requires that parents restrain all children under eight years old in an appropriate child passenger safety seat or booster seat. In order for the car seat or booster seat to comply with the law, the safety device must be appropriate for the child’s height and weight and meet all federal safety standards. You must also install and use the seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions [O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76 (b)].
There is no law that requires you to place a child older than three or more than 40 pounds in a rear facing child seat. However, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) suggests that you keep your child in a rear facing car seat for as long as possible. Once a child grows out of a rear facing car seat, they are probably ready for a front facing seat. You can find more about GOHS recommendations for car seat safety here.
You should seat children under the age of 13 in the rear seat of a vehicle unless there are no rear seats, e.g., a pickup truck.
According to O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76 (b)(1)(A),If a child weighs over 40 pounds (and is over eight years old), they can use only a lap belt (and not a car seat or booster seat) only if:
- The car does not have both lap and shoulder belts
- The car has shoulder belts but other children are using the seats with shoulder belts
If your child is under eight years old but is over four feet nine inches tall, he or she may wear a normal seat belt. Any child whose parent or guardian can furnish a doctor’s note that states the child’s medical condition prevents wearing a seat belt will also be exempt. In order to avoid a ticket, the parent or guardian should have the physical letter in their possession while driving [O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76(b)(1)(D)].
Click It or Expect a Ticket
State seat belt laws are either secondary of primary. Secondary seat belt laws require that the police stop you for some other infraction like speeding or running a stop sign before they may issue a seat belt ticket.
Georgia’s seat belt laws are primary laws. This means that a police officer may pull a motorist over solely for a seat belt violation. In fact, the law indicates an officer has probable cause if she has a clear and unobstructed view of anyone not wearing a seat belt [O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(F)].
The fine for a seat belt conviction is $15. You will receive a $25 fine if there is an unbelted minor passenger eight years or older in the vehicle [O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(E)(2-3)]. If a passenger younger than eight is not in a booster or car seat, the fine is $50 for the first offense and $100 for the second offense.
In addition to fines, infractions of Georgia seat belt laws may also result in points against the driver’s license of the offender.